Volunteering: The Art of Giving Back and Stepping Forward
Our Seattle dental group at LeCuyer & Amato dentistry is proud to share a story from our wonderful team member of 20 years, Cathy, discussing her experience as a volunteer with the Woodland Park Zoo.
“What can I do to help?” were probably the first words out of my mouth as a child. Being the oldest of 4 children, I was naturally raised to ask this question of my working parents all of the time. I did everything from making lunches to babysitting siblings to cleaning out the garage. When I decided on a career in dentistry, I found great success working with fearful patients; I helped them to overcome their fears, and calmed them through their dental procedures. Overtime, however, my quest to “help” suddenly began to evolve into my wanting to volunteer, to give back, to somehow make a tiny difference in people’s lives, the planet, and definitely involving animals. Enter Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle!
My volunteer positions at the zoo have included being an animal unit volunteer working with birds, Zoo Ambassador and Mentor, and being the current Chair of the Volunteer Leadership Team. Each position has years of unique and moving experiences and stories, including some pretty amazing bird encounters!
But the experience that is always the most rewarding for me is when I interact with an inquisitive young person or child, watching them understand how we all co-exist together, animals and humans, into the world around us.
One afternoon, while the keeper and I were out in the walk through observing the birds of the Conservation Aviary unit, a GirlScout troop was walking through at the same time. They stopped us and said their goal that afternoon was “to learn about birds and understand the meaning of conservation”. These spontaneous encounters are always the most rewarding for me! The keeper and I introduced all of the birds in our unit to the troop, discussed a birds general anatomy, and had a lengthy discussion on habitat, habitat destruction, and the reason why some of our birds were endangered. As the finale for the afternoon, the keeper presented “Blueberry”, a female hornbill, one of our presentation animals from our unit. The girls were completely awestruck!
All of the information verbally shared with the girls moments ago, now made a huge impact in their understanding by seeing this bird up close. We ended our discussion on conservation and ways we can all help our wildlife and our world.
I have been a volunteer at Woodland Park Zoo for the past 34 years, which equates to over 5,000 hours of time. This accumulation of time represents many conversations with the public about conservation, zoo history, and animals, specifically, birds. My most treasured accolade is seeing my name etched on the “5,000 Hour” volunteer board in the Education Center at the zoo: a confirmation to myself of how I may have “helped” someone become aware of a different point of view, helped make a slight difference in someone’s life, and maybe brought just one simple moment of joy.
We would love to hear from you, share your volunteering experiences in the comments below. Follow our LeCuyer & Amato blog for more stories of giving back to the community.